Reception: Saturday, January 21, 5-7PM
In 1923, Bliss and Mildred Wiant moved from Ohio to Beijing, China to serve as Methodist missionaries. The Wiants lived in China until 1951 working at Yenching University and teaching music lessons. These years spanned a period of tumultuous change, as China shifted away from an imperial heritage towards modernization and endured an intense period of civil strife that included a civil war and a Japanese invasion. These conflicts dispersed objects from the imperial courts and made it possible to obtain valuable pieces in curio shops. Over the years, the couple acquired a remarkable collection of over six hundred Chinese objects that reflect intriguing aspects of China’s imperial culture and tastes of the empire. As musicologists, the Wiants particularly enjoyed collecting exquisite Chinese musical instruments. Their assemblage of objects also includes curiosities such as cricket cages and Chinese snuff bottles as well as treasures of imperial China such as a seventh century Buddhist Sutra and a bell from the Chinese imperial collection. As a result, the collection reflects the legacy of centuries of imperial collecting and captures how aspects of court and literati culture continued beyond the walls of the imperial palace after the end of the dynastic era.
The Wiants donated their collection to OSU in 1978 with the hope that the study of these objects would share aspects of Chinese culture with the university community. This exhibition supports that goal by investigating how the collection reflects Chinese imperial culture as well as the transitions of early twentieth century China. Collectively these pieces draw together the refinement of Chinese emperors and the tastes of an American educator and missionary living in early twentieth century China.
Organized by Christina Burke Mathison and Julia F. Andrews, from the Department of History of Art, with the assistance of their graduate students and special assistance of Yufan Fang.
Pictured above: Image credit: Gilt bronze bell, Ch'ien Lung Period, Circa 1743 with an overall dragon and cloudbank relief design, rockwork and wave tapering base with striking medallions; mounted on a en elaborately carved rosewood stand, 1743 (Accession #1978.475) Stand: 24 x 17 1/2 x 10"